Image: Lucas Garrido
Since its announcement in June this year, Halsey’s fourth studio album, If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power, has had fans buzzing with the prospects of a rock record from the platinum selling hitmaker. Enlisting Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross of Nine Inch Nails on production duties, the singers latest release continues to expand their sonic palette, swapping out the genre-defying arrangement of Manic for cinematic and atmospheric soundscapes.
As we make our way through the record, we follow the singer as they struggle between the power dynamic of love and power, the idea that one cannot exist without the other. Opening with the haunting piano melody of The Tradition, the tone is set for the sonic exploration that will unfold over thirteen tracks, moving into darker territory that leans into the horror genre. Conceptually we're met with an individual set to follow the path to power, noting love as a temporary commodity on Bells in Santa Fe.
Easier than Lying picks up on the more rock-based sonics from the singers previous singles Nightmare and Experiment On Me. Halsey grapples with unrequited love that is detrimental to ones health, before introducing mesmerising hip-hop bass lines on the introspective Lilith. The record takes a fleeting turn on Girl is a Gun, bringing an alternative take on the dance genre, coming back around with mournful yet satirical You Asked For This.
Apart from Reznor and Ross, Halsey enlists a heavyweight lineup of legendary musicians on the record. Honey features drum work from Foo Fighters frontman and Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, former Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham is responsible for the soothing acoustics heard on Darling, with TV on the Radio’s guitarist Dave Sitek playing on You Asked for This. Pino Palladino and Karriem Riggins team up once again on Lilith, with further appearances from The Bug's Kevin Martin and Meat Beat Manifesto.
The record finds its quietest moment in Darling, an acoustic lullaby that provides one of the singers most accomplished lyrical moments, bringing evocative storytelling as they console a loved one. 1121 provides a pop-punk moment of clarity, as they recall on a fleeting romance, before bringing an Evanescence aura to Whispers and The Lighthouse, two shining moments on the record. Whispers opens with chilling piano from Reznor, before glitchy electronics creep their way in, as the singer admits their own tendencies to self-sabotage, whilst addressing their most haunting inner thoughts. Feverish synths continue on I’m Not A Woman, I’m A God,
Halsey has stated the record is “a concept album about the joys and horrors of pregnancy and childbirth”, If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power captures the conflict of longing to give life, and the toll it can take on ones body. The bulk of the concept record navigates the distinction between self-preservation and self-destruction, told through a lens that focuses on trauma placed upon the body. Halsey recently welcomed their first child with their partner, screenwriter Alev Aydin. Upon the albums conclusion Ya’aburnee, the Arabic term for “You bury me”, Halsey has offered an in-depth analysis of their own psyche, arriving at a steady resolution, that love holds the ultimate power.
If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power is arguably Halsey's most considered record. Superb production from Reznor and Ross, allow the singers evocative and captivating lyricism to run wild in a new sonic playground. The record serves as a comprehensive anatomy of the dichotomy of impending motherhood, sprinkled with Halsey's masterful lyricism that creates a sense of folklore across the thirteen tracks. Offering moments of strength, juxtaposed with moments of intimacy, the ambitious record is a powerful, career-defining moment from one of the 21st centuries most innovative artists.
If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power is out now!